Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What We Gain

The good is the enemy of the best.
Sometimes you have to give up something good to get something even better.

Have you heard these types of things before? I have. I've even thought if not said them.

I've been thinking a lot recently about giving things up. I entered an essay contest and wrote about giving up my grandmother's piano. At a recent conference about a writing assignment, I had a wonderful idea for part of my writing; as I delved into it I had to give up that wonderful idea. It just didn't fit with what else I needed to do. I've written about giving up my classroom teaching dream - or releasing it, which for some reason sounds better to me.

In each of these very different circumstances, the things were all good. But as I look at them, I'm not sure I gained anything "better" as a result. I did lose some anxiety once I gave up the piano...but is that better? I think the content I'm writing will be more cohesive after giving up the other...but not necessarily better, just good in a different way. And my current freelance work is fun and good...but we've had some struggles too in this new way of living. And in some ways it's definitely not better than a regular job with benefits.

Is "give up the good to get the better/best" biblical?

I thought about some people in the Bible that were called to give up, lose, or change something.

Abraham was called to give up his son, to sacrifice him to God. (Genesis 22)
Job involuntarily gave up everything--children, animals, possessions, health. (Job 1-2)
The fishermen gave up their entire livelihood, the only professions they had known. (Matthew 4:18-22)
Paul changed his life, forsaking his position as one of the Jewish religious elite. (Acts 9, Philippians 3:4-7)

In giving up the good, did they gain better?

Abraham received a ram and did not sacrifice his son...but he didn't gain anything material.
Job regained more than he had before...after suffering greatly and bearing scorn from his friends.
The fishermen became wandering disciples of Jesus, learning from Him...and faced persecution from others.
Paul traveled the known world and preached...and was beaten, stoned, jailed, and mocked.

They didn't gain much more materially or physically...and in most cases had less or suffered a lot.

But they grew closer to God as a result of the change they experienced. Abraham's faith in God was strengthened and his covenant secured through his actions. Job stayed faithful to God and learned that God is in control even when things seem overwhelming. The fishermen received power and saw lives changed in Jesus' name. Paul spread the gospel and brought many souls to faith in Jesus, all while learning more and more about the Savior and writing to teach generations to come.

In giving up things we may not necessarily receive anything better, or even anything as good. I think we often look for that but it may not be there. God didn't promise that giving up things, even good things, equals a greater benefit in exchange.

But, if we are following God and giving up what we have to Him, we gain Him. The very Spirit of God is in us. We would certainly say that it the best. But it's not the point. We don't give up things to gain Him. We follow Him and drop anything that hinders our obedience to Him.

It's not about getting. It's not about giving up. It's about God.

It isn't what we have. It isn't what we do. It's who (and whose) we are.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)

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